Wellcome and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have announced funding, to advance a tuberculosis (TB) vaccine candidate, M72/AS01E (M72), through a Phase III clinical trial.
The announcement was made at a virtual news conference on Wednesday.
If proven effective, M72 could potentially become the first new vaccine to help prevent pulmonary TB, a form of active TB, in more than 100 years.
To support the M72 Phase III clinical trial, which will cost an estimated US$550 million, Wellcome is providing up to US$150 million and the Gates Foundation will fund the remainder, about US$400 million.
The vaccine, called M72, will be given from Year 2024 to 26,000 young adults in Africa and south-east Asia who have a latent infection with the bacteria that cause TB but no symptoms.
Alexander Pym, the Director of Infectious Disease at Wellcome, said TB was one of the biggest health challenges in the world.
The only TB vaccine in use currently, Bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG), was first given to people in 1921.
It helps protect babies and young children against severe systemic forms of TB but offers limited protection against pulmonary TB among adolescents and adults.
In 2021, an estimated 10.6 million people fell ill with TB and 1.6 million died.
On his part, the Director-GeneralWorld Health Organisation (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has commended the support by the Gates Foundation and Wellcome to develop a new TB vaccine.